Juniors dilemma - whether to penalise clubs
Saturday, October 20 2007 @ 08:37 pm ACST
Contributed by: Brett Northey
Perhaps the biggest issue for the international spread of Australian Football is making the step from a small club to larger numbers and getting juniors into the game. Of course it's completely reasonable for an expat-Australian club to function purely at that level, but in many cases a decision is made to try to develop the game locally and leave a lasting legacy.
In some cases a club may morph into a league, or in areas with higher numbers of Aussies, several clubs may form and become a relatively stable league relatively quickly. Over time the question sometimes emerges of how much pressure the league can or should put on clubs to ensure local development occurs to ensure the continued growth of the sport. Classic examples of reasonably large, stable leagues are those based around London (England), Ontario (Canada) and Auckland (New Zealand). Each of those boast a good standard of footy and a solid mix of Aussies and locals. But over the years all three have had issues in getting their clubs to invest heavily in junior development. Here we have a look at one small example of the tough decision another sport made.
Lacrosse is very much a minority sport in Australia, much as Australian Football is in many other countries. Overall it's probably making better inroads into Australia than footy is in most other countries. A recent example of the strong measures taken by a league in Adelaide (South Australia) demonstrate the seriousness with which the sport's body is taking the game in this city.
Lacrosse SA regulations apparently require senior clubs to field two junior sides in the under 11, under 13 and under 15 competitions. The sting in the tail is that the seniors are awarded 4 points for each win they have, unless they don't meet the juniors requirement, in which case they only get 3 points. This strict criteria has been in place for several years but not strictly enforced until 2007 - with an immediate impact on one local club. East Torrens - Payneham thought they were into the finals until they realised the full repercussions of having only one junior side. They appealed to Lacrosse SA without success and are angry about the outcome, saying the penalty is an impost on the senior squad who are not to blame for the situation.
This may be true, and it demonstrates the dangers of such strict measures to force clubs to develop the game. It could easily lead to sides folding rather than put the additional efforts into finding juniors on top of the weekly trials of running the seniors. On the flipside it might be the only way to advance the sport. Clearly this is an issue that needs to be handled carefully by every league, but it seems lacrosse is doing something right Down Under. And the ruling isn't without precedent in Aussie Rules, with the North Coast AFL (in New South Wales) applying similar rules in the past. It will be interesting to see if such policies are ever introduced in other Australian Football leagues around the world.